June 01, 2014

The Minamata Convention on Mercury: What It Does and Does Not Mean for the United States

Joanne Rotondi and Kim Smaczniak

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a landmark in environmental treaty-making, not only because it is the first major new international environmental agreement the United States has joined in over a decade, but because of its unique and comprehensive focus on a single pollutant. The Minamata Convention differs in kind from other chemical conventions in two notable respects. First, it targets mercury exclusively rather than an evolving list of chemicals. Second, as compared to long-range air pollution treaties, which tend to attain only regional participation and address air emissions alone, the Minamata Convention takes a full-court press against a variety of global sources of mercury pollution: providing for controls across a range of products, processes, and industries; addressing releases across media; and setting limits on direct mining, exports, imports, and storage of mercury. With nearly one hundred signatories less than a year from its conclusion, the Minamata Convention shows great promise in advancing its objective to protect the human health and the environment from emissions and releases of mercury worldwide.


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